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Coast Guard Holds Second Hearing For Seaman Accused Of Murdering Shipmate In Unalaska

Berett Wilber

A U.S. Coast Guardsman accused of murdering his shipmate in Unalaska is set to find out whether he will face court-martial for murder within weeks.

A military hearing in Alameda, California, on Monday, largely reaffirmed testimony from an earlier hearing in October over accusations that 21-year-old Seaman Ethan Tucker killed fellow Seaman Ethan Kelch while their vessel — the Kodiak-based Cutter Douglas Munro — wasstopped in Unalaska for repairs last winter.

The second hearing was ordered because of inconsistencies between some details of the prosecution's narrative and some of the testimony, according to a report by CBS San Francisco Bay Area, which is covering the court proceedings in Alameda.

When Tucker was first charged in August, after a 7-month investigation, military prosecutors said that he strangled and punched Kelch while they were drinking on a beach near the port, before dragging Kelch's body to the water and leaving him to drown.

Since then, prosecutors amended the charges against Tucker, and dropped an allegation of maiming, after his defense attorney presented a very different account of what happened. He said Tucker was trying to get his friend out of the water and prevent him from getting back in.

Tucker was released from a military prison in San Diego last month and restricted to the base in Alameda, supervised by base security.

Tucker is still charged with six violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice — including murder, aggravated assault, and involuntary manslaughter.

It will take approximately four to six weeks before a decision is made whether or not to take any of these charges to court martial, according to Coast Guard spokesperson NyxoLyno Cangemi.

No witnesses testified and no new evidence was presented at Monday's hearing.

Hope McKenney is a public radio news director, reporter, producer and host based in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
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